The UK has long been considered to have a North/South divide when it comes to a whole range of comparable subjects such as house prices and even standards of living.
A recent study that looked at wage inequality throughout the country confirmed that regional divisions do certainly exist, so what is the solution to keeping workforces in every part of the country motivated and well paid?
The UK labour market
There is understandably concern about wage inequality and employment polarisation, which can equate to a tendency for employment to polarise into low and high skilled work in the UK.
When you look at the long-term trends there is clear evidence that the UK job market has clear distinctions and a seemingly widening gap between the opportunities for high and low wage employment.
It seems reasonable to conclude from recent studies that cities that display a higher than average level of wage inequality also tend to be the most affluent areas, in particular the south of England and London in particular.
Cities that have more equal labour markets also demonstrate the highest level of post-industrial decline with smaller proportions of their working population having high skill levels or have jobs in knowledge-based positions.
Driving through change
There has been a pronounced decline in the level of manufacturing output within the UK and this has clearly been a contributing factor to the levels of wage inequality seen in areas that are not considered as affluent and previously relied upon certain industries to provide regular work.
A key factor in driving through change to address this level of job inequality would be to try and increase the level of knowledge-based jobs available in more industrialised areas.
This could be done by offering the companies incentives to locate in an area where there would be plenty of opportunities to recruit employees looking to learn new skills and generate more affluence within the area generally. If you take a snapshot of Jobs in Stockport you will find that there are already some encouraging signs that companies who operate within new industries such as technology are becoming aware of the advantages of being located in these post-industrial locations.
Creating more opportunities for low-paid workers in less affluent areas and ensuring that workers who currently have lower-skills than some other areas of the UK are given opportunities to develop their skills through training, will over a period of time, make a substantial difference to the economic growth of these areas and start to tackle the inequality that currently exists.
Fair living wage
Although the cost of living is higher in urban areas and particularly so in major cities like London and Manchester, there is still far too much disparity on wages compared to other areas of the UK. Wider policies need to be developed that carry the aim of increasing the number of quality jobs available in every part of the UK and support the idea of a fair living wage. Economic migration would not be necessary if opportunities existed for a potential career and regular increases in salary.
Affluence is clearly the main driver of urban inequality and work has to be done to tackle this issue so that the imbalance that currently exists in some areas is not allowed to widen still further.
Mia Hawkins is a retired high school career advisor. She now spends her days gardening and writing on various blog sites.